Overuse of antibiotics is another way in which these drugs are abused. This practice causes antibiotic resistance. In the United States, healthy farm animals are often provided with vast quantities of antibiotics in low doses as part of their diet in order to make these animals reach maturity faster. People who oppose this practice say that it causes widespread antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is best defined a microorganism’s ability to withstand the eradicating effects of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance results from mutation. Sometimes it occurs as a result of plasmid exchange that takes place between bacteria that are found in similar species. Bacteria that have many resistance genes are known as multiresistant bacteria.
The principle that explains antibiotic resistance is the same one that applies to the theory of evolution through natural selection. The action of the antibiotic is a pressure that is exerted on the organism by the environment. It is only those bacteria that are able to undergo mutation are able to survive and eventually reproduce. The young ones that are reproduced have this mutative trait passed on to them. In the end, the entire bacteria generation becomes fully resistant to antibiotics.
Many studies have revealed that the number of resistant bacteria is dependent on the patterns of usage of antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics, especially those of broad spectrum variety, hastens the process through which methicillin resistance develops. The resistance develops even in those organisms that have never been subjected to selective methicillin pressure per se.
A scenario where antibiotic resistant bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial infections is a very dangerous one. This scenario might lead to many deaths as a result of bacterial infections. Medical researchers would have to do away with all existing antibiotics and research on new ones that would be able to deal with the bacterial infections. Without a new class of effective antibiotics, it would be difficult for doctors to deal with even minor bacterial infections. Such cases have been reported several times. In 1967, a pneumonia trait that was resistant to penicillin was detected. Other pathogens that have shown varying extent of resistance over time include Streptococci, Campylobacter, Salmonella and Myobacterium tuberculosis.
Research on new classes of antibiotics is underway. Doctors may have to rely on vaccines which improve the body’s natural ability to fight infections, as opposed to antibiotics, which function independent of the body’s natural defenses. Overuse of antibiotics might also lead to development of new bacteria strains that are resistant to all existing vaccines. In this case, focus may be shifted towards phage therapy, a rather recent alternative whose research is ongoing.